As a guy who strives to provide a different voice in Fitchburg, I ingest a lot of media that I quite frankly can't stand. But unless you know what other people are saying you're in no position to point out that they're often totally wrong. That's why I
I happened to be listening last night while Morse went off about how people who believe the theory of evolution is correct (i.e. everyone with even a basic grasp of science) are big fat jerks. Now, I may be a big jerk, but I'm not fat. Morse also updated his terrible blog with information about it! Incidentally, I think his blog gets even fewer readers than his radio show has listeners, which might put it into negative numbers somehow.
Morse is clearly neither a scientist nor a theologian. Nor does he seem to have any real understanding of science or theology. You'd think that would make him unqualified to have a meaningful discussion of the evolution vs creationism "controvery," and you'd be right!
But funny thing about evolution. Most scientific theories are debated by scientists. If some radio host started going off on a totally uninformed tirade about the theory of relativity people would just laugh at him. But evolution has been politicized to the point where anyone who's even heard of Darwin can rant about how horrible evolutionary theory is and have a similarly uninformed subset of idiots believe him.
But this is science, not politics. So let's get to the facts, shall we?
First, a quote from Morse's blog so you can see where this all came from:
I am proud of comedian, author, economist, and former presidential speechwriter Ben Stein for taking on the thorny issue of evolution versus intelligent design in his new film "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed" due to be released in theatres [sic] February, 2008.Hmm, okay. Ben Stein was a teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." And though I don't see "scientist" or "theologian" in his credentials either, people seem to be under the odd impression that he's kind of smart.
Besides delving into the raucous debate over the scientific legitimacy of Darwinism, the theory that claims that man randomly developed from muck and was formed by mutating over millions of years, the movie also documents the Stalinist tactics of the darwiniacs, the devout cult followers of this questionable theory.
After all, he had that show where people tried to steal his money, right? No way could that have been set up to mostly ask questions that he'd be likely to know the answers to!
Morse, as usual, began spouting things that just aren't true right away. There's absolutely no "raucous debate over the scientific legitimacy of Darwinism." There's a political debate, not a scientific one. Sure, there are debates within the field of evolutionary biology, but they're about elements of the theory, not the legitimacy of the theory as a whole. Nor is the theory "questionable" in the usual sense. All scientific theories are open to questioning, but the validity of the theory isn't in doubt in the scientific community (it's only in doubt by the moron community).
Also, evolutionary theory doesn't really claim that "man randomly developed from muck." It has little to say about the origins of life, and is really about the development of life after that point (which actually means it's not even incompatible with a "creator," but more about that later). He's right about mutations being important though, so good for him getting at least one fact right!
Morse talked last night about how he considers evolutionary theory "just a theory," and how he wrote a column several years ago that said that and got a lot of criticism. Chuck Morse apparently does not know the difference between a "theory" (as used by the general public) and a "scientific theory" (as used by scientists, natch). This is a common argument used by similarly-confused creationists, like the Cobb County Board of Education, whose unconstitutional sticker for textbooks is reproduced below.
Anyway, here's a link that explains the difference in ways even Morse should be able to understand. For those of you too lazy to follow it or that need a refresher, in a nutshell:
A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.Pretty simple, no?
In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology...
A theory is developed only through the scientific method, meaning it is the final result of a series of rigorous processes. Note that a theory never becomes a law unless it was very narrow to begin with...
...Real scientific theories must be falsifiable. So-called "theories" based on religion, such as creationism or intelligent design are, therefore, not scientific theories. They are not falsifiable and they do not follow the scientific method.
Evolutionary theory, of course, is a scientific theory. One that's as well-proven and accepted as quantum theory or the theory of relativity. It's open to debate and revision, but outright rejection of evolutionary theory would require some pretty dramatic evidence against it.
Back to Morse:
Stein reveals how how [sic] educators, scientists and commentators have been publically [sic] denounced, scorned, and in some cases denied tenure and even fired for the “crime” of believing that there might be evidence of design” [sic] in nature.Maybe that's true. I don't know. If a science teacher is denying evolution in favor of creationism I'd certainly deny him tenure. Similarly, I'd deny him tenure if he was staying the Earth is flat or that gravity only exists because God keeps shoving everything to the ground. Science teachers are supposed to teach science, not crackpot theories.
Come to think of it, evolution is probably better understood than gravity (which works, but isn't well-explained). Probably even better than quantum theory (which is just incredibly hard to wrap your head around). Quantum theory is accepted as fact though, because it explains how the world works with incredible accuracy. Evolutionary theory does the same thing. And that's what a scientific theory is about! If it works, it's a good theory. If it doesn't, it's rejected and hopefully replaced by a better one. Hurrah for science!
Morse seems to have a touch of PTSD from his dramatic loss when he ran against Barney Frank for Congress:
I had my own run-in on this issue when I ran for Congress in Massachusetts against Barney Frank in 2004. In his opposition research, Frank had uncovered an article I had written that (gasp) questioned Darwin's theory of evolution. He brought this up during a joint television appearance on NECN - Nightline with Chet Curtis and Jim Braude.Yeah, indeed Morse shouldn't be taken seriously. But it's not for "questioning Darwinism," it's just for being really really dumb. I wouldn't take someone who denies the Holocaust seriously, I wouldn't take someone who denies the theory of relativity seriously, I wouldn't take someone who thought that when I hit the button to open my garage door invisible pixies flew over to it in order to do the heavy lifting seriously, and I wouldn't take someone who denies evolution seriously.
Frank looked angry as he exposed what he considered to be a bombshell, a shocking scandal. By questioning Darwinism, I was not to be taken seriously. [blah blah blah]
It's not about asking questions (science actually encourages that), it's about intelligence. If you question evolution intelligently then you should be taken seriously. If you deny it wholesale because your invisible friend in the sky told you to then you absolutely should not be taken seriously.
Morse ends his blog post with this paragraph:
Darwin's evolution is the cornerstone of the secular faith because it removes the possibility of God. Thus, God is replaced by the State which is, according to the secular faith, charged with the moral responsibility to evolve man. This was the faith of the ancient pagans, the idol-worshippers of biblical times. The state set up an idol, such as Baal, and dictated the means of worship down the lines of supporting "enlightened" state power. This also gave the King, who controlled the false idol, the moral pretext to denounce and remove his enemies. Perhaps not much has changed.Okay, ignore for a minute that most of it makes no damn sense and let's just focus on this idea that evolution=atheism. Morse doesn't come right out and say that in his blog, but he did on the radio. As we've come to expect, it too is totally made up.
Of course there are plenty of atheists who accept evolution as fact. The brilliant Richard Dawkins is perhaps one of the best-known evolutionary biologists at work today, and has taken an extremely strong stance against religion (and I dare anyone of faith to read The God Delusion without questioning what they believe). But there are plenty of others in the field who believe in a god.
One very well-known evolutionary biologist who also believed in a god was the late Stephen Jay Gould. Gould introduced the concept of Non-Overlapping Magesteria, which boiled down to a belief that religion and science are seperate "magisteria" with nothing to say about each other. For that matter even the Vatican under John Paul II has endorsed evolution, though I think the current pope isn't on board with that anymore.
The head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, has also espoused the theory of Theistic Evolution (TE). I happen to disagree with Collins (personally I'm a Pastafarian), but the fact that so many respected biologists are clearly theists pretty effectively debunks Morse's claim.
As for Theistic Evolution, it's the belief "that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not be contradictory." And indeed, they need not! Who's to say that a god didn't set evolution in motion? That'd be a pretty clever trick! Certainly smarter than creating men with nipples and all humans with an appendix that does nothing except sometimes get inflamed and kill people!
One last thing I want to address. Morse talked a lot last night about how he got so much anger and hatred and so forth for his evolution denial. He seemed baffled by it, and suggested that evolutionary theory was the one thing in this country you're not allowed to question.
Now, I'd actually argue that other people's religious beliefs are the one thing you're not allowed to question, but let's just go with this...
Chuck, the reason people react so strongly is because you're totally uninformed about the subject you're discussing. To reject evolution at this point is (rightfully) seen by many people as a sign both of ignorance and of a desire to impose your religious beliefs on others.
No question here, so-called "Intelligent Design" is just creationism in fancy clothes. Its goal is to get God into the public schools, which is clearly forbidden by the Constitution. If you endorse gutting the Bill of Rights, you're going to piss people off. People who are pissed off are going to react strongly. It's not just atheists, it's anyone who respects the First Amendment.
I haven't focused much on the creationism side of this argument, because I believe it to be nonsense. You can believe it if you like, but the instant that belief turns into a desire to corrupt the minds of our children with fairy tales when they should be learning real science, you earn yourself an enemy. And I'm hardly alone in that.
Question evolution all you want, but learn a thing or two about it first. Try reading a book that doesn't agree with your religious preconceptions once in awhile. Just being a dumbass won't get you far.